Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Climate Change

Climate change or ‘Climate Breakdown’, as some are starting to call it, is happening fast, globally and locally with Somerset’s precious coastal and wetland areas on the frontline from rising sea levels, severe storms and even drought.

For example, current 2018 Government guidance for managing sea level rise is to assume 1.14m by 2090-2115 rather than the 0.5m that has been used in existing plans for shoreline and catchment flood management which were based on previous guidance using earlier climate projections1.

Never before has it been so vital for the whole county to work together to encourage nature and show how it can be part of the solution, vital to reduce our emissions through energy efficiency, vital to generate renewable energy and vital to preserve the precious carbon safely locked away in the peat in the Somerset Levels and Exmoor, in the Severn Estuary mudflats and in the gas shale along our coast.

Somerset’s nature is affected in many ways but most notably as;

  • Species moving north as the temperatures warm
  • Changes in food supply due to a changing climate affecting many species and their breeding success
  • Disruption to hibernation habits causing animals to awake too early when there is little food available

Steve Mewes, Policy and Campaign Manager writes;

‘When I grew up around the Somerset levels in the 1970’s the landscape was quite different with much more peat digging going on, almost no nature reserves, many more milking herds and almost no maize growing. And no Little Egret’s. And why would there be, even the 2008 edition of the Hamlyn Guide to Birds of Britain and Europe explained that this was a Mediterranean bird which breeds in Southern Europe along with the Cattle Egret and Great White Egret.

Now as my 2011 Pocket Guide to British Birds tells me; “This small heron was once a rarity but in the last 20 years the British population has exploded with in 2015 an estimated 1,000 breeding pairs and is now commonplace on the coasts of Southern Britain” and most definitely the Somerset levels. And now these exotic visitors are joined by Cattle Egret’s, Glossy Ibis and even Great White Egret.

They have largely moved here due to our warmer winters and are very much the canaries in the coal mine that is man-made climate change.’

Find out more about the impacts of Climate Change in this short video